Aspen Schools Seeks Snowmass Tax to Balance Budget

Apr 21, 2015

Credit Tracy Olson/Flickr

The Aspen School District is looking to the Town of Snowmass Village to fill a budget shortfall. The district is proposing a sales tax, just like the one in place in the City of Aspen. Aspen Public Radio’s Carolyn Sackariason reports.

The Aspen School District experiences a $2.2 million dollar state funding shortfall every year. It’s able to make up for the loss thanks to a .3 percent sales tax Aspen voters approved in 2012. Last year, it generated $1.8 million. That leaves the district about half a million dollars short. Right now, it’s being taken out of the general fund reserve. But as district finance director Kate Fuentes points out, that’s not sustainable.

“We think that’s it’s important that there is participation for where are students are coming from and we have 20 percent of our school district students come from (Snowmass?) and we think it’s important to get participation from everybody.”

If Snowmass voters approve a sales tax hike, it’s projected it will generate around $500,000 a year. Fuentes went before the town council last week requesting the question be put to the voters. Council members seemed warm to the idea and will likely take it up in the next few months. One option they talked about was repurposing a portion of the current sales tax revenue to the district.

Snowmass elected officials were asked four years ago to increase the tax rate but they said no. The City of Aspen said yes, and put it on the ballot where it narrowly passed. It was pitched as a temporary measure – the tax sunsets next year. And because it now appears the state funding shortfall is permanent, the district is hoping the sales tax revenue will be too.

“That’s why we are looking to go out to the town of Snowmass and go back to the city of Aspen and say we need to this ourselves.”

School officials haven’t decided whether to ask Aspen voters to renew the sales tax this year or next.